Story for the Day: Cgnita and Eilen

Bilar Harvester is the royal cleric, but before he ever came to the keep, he lived with his mother and father in Kileen, a landscape known for its Proto-Frewyn architecture. His mother was a member of the Frewyn Archaeological Society, and his father, as no surprise, was a well respected cleric in the west. Here is a little of their fateful meeting in an extra long post. Enjoy!

Image by David Kernow, Callanish Stones, via Wikipedia creative commons

They had been walking some minutes before stopping to survey the grounds, Cgnita in all the fleshment of first meeting, and Eilen in all the exhilaration that ancient stones and interested Almost fell there, lad, good thing you got her, and Cgnita, while turning aside and blushing to himself, began to wonder at Aoidhe’s disappearance.  
company could furnish. Each was reluctant at first to talk of their interests, Cgnita prompting her to say more by regaling her with the history of Kileen, and Eilen tripping through her notebook for what to say in reply. She talked of ancient Frewyn, of old clans and academic theories, missing clans and geological incongruities, and Cgnita listened, glad to be entertained by one who reveled in scholarly studies, and even more pleased that Aoidhe was being merciful and quiet. Eilen stumbled a few times as they ascended the slight incline, but it was the fault of her own excitement and inelegance that made her falter, not the work of a devious god. Cgnita did put out his hand to catch her once when she stumbled over a jutting stone, but when he caught her, there was no laughter, none of Aoidhe’s snide remarks of
                Aoidhe? the cleric conceived, but no answer was given him, nor when he searched about for all the usual signs of Aoidhe did he find any. The intimations of pipe smoke billowing against his neck, the sloom of mind sitting on his subconscious, the warmth of his sacred convenience, the thrum of feeling when he spoke were all absent, and Cgnita could be easy. I know he is here somewhere, watching me like a vulture from the shadows. Any moment now he is going to swoop down and pull my robes or take my feet from under me. He is only waiting until I’ve completely forgotten about him, and then he is going to humiliate me, or he is going to say something horridly rude in my ear to make me livid. He is probably waiting to see whether we hashiff, as he likes to say. He paused here, thinking Aoidhe would interpose with some roaring exclamation about his having used a vulgar word, but there was nothing. His subconscious hummed its usual frequency, no improprieties crossed his mind, and while he must believe that Aoidhe was mantling somewhere nearby, the sublimity of thinking he was alone was all his happiness. Aoidhe had told him what to say when they first started out from the infirmary, had told him how to ask leading questions, making interested remarks, and give him hints as to conduct, how close he was to walk beside her, how attentive he was to act, how eagerly he was to listen if he wished to attach Eilen’s heart, and Cgnita was grateful for all his advice, but now that he was grown more accustomed to Eilen’s company, realizing that she was as fond of pedantic pursuits as he could be himself, he found her more conversible and easy to talk to than he could have wished and desperately wished himself alone with her. Perhaps Aoidhe had heard him, perhaps the God had taken this unconscious entreaty as a prayer and fulfilled it by leaving him for a time whilst he went on to see how his son was getting on with her journey to Bramlae. He had boasted of his omniconsciousness being able to venture anywhere without his physical form following, but he could not be everywhere at once. Eilen tripped again as they mounted the bank leading up to the last slope of the hill, and Cgnita’s thoughts of Aoidhe soon vanished.
                “Are you well, Miss Eilen?” said he, holding out a hand to her, but she had already righted herself and began brushing her knees. “You do seem to enjoy being in the dirt, as it were.” He cringed at his own joke and turned away, stabbing his thigh with a tightened fist in an agony of mortification. Why must I make horrid puns? he wrenched, looking pained. Why must I ruin everything by talking? If I am not saying something clerical, I am making abominous jokes to delightful young ladies who might have an interest in me. This was why he needed Aoidhe’s guidance. This is why he was a wreck of misery and misconstruction. Nothing could be right unless Aoidhe told him what to do. He should keep him from making such ridiculous comments, but the sound of tinkling laughter filled is consciousness and kept him from begging Aoidhe to return. He turned and was met with a most delighted countenance.
                “Haha!” Eilen beamed, slapping her knee. “That was a very good one! Yes. Yes, I see, because I am an archaeologist and I like digging in the dirt. Yes, very good.”
                “Ha ha,” said Cgnita, his eyes darting anxiously about. Is she being perfectly serious? Is she laughing at my stupid joke? He half expected a Naw, lad, she’s laughin’ at you, but no comment descended from Aoidhe’s ethereal bough. She really was laughing, with all the ingenuous felicity that a glowing aspect and sparkling eyes could furnish, and proud of himself, and feeling as though he never needed Aoidhe at all. “Ha ha, yes,” said he, curling shyly into his shoulder. “Sometimes, when I try, I can be humorous. It is not every day that I say something worthy of a laugh. Clerics can only be amusing some of the time, you know.”
                Eilen laughed heartily at this, though Cgnita knew not why, but the laugh was good natured enough, and Cgnita supposed that either he was secretly hilarious and unaware of his own talents, or she had never been used to such agreeable company before. The latter was more likely, as Cgnita soon discovered, for when they came to the plateau which overlooked the whole of the Kileen lowlands, the view was enough to send Eilen into raptures over earthworks, banks and ditches, coring and digging, ancient structures, grand halls and limestone figures. He tried once, when she stopped for breath, to ask a question about her survey work, but she began again with, “And you can certainly see the causeway round the whole area to the north, where the old clan must have made their home. We have a detailed a report of the clan who lived there! We have evidence of their roundhouses, some of their pottery from their cooling pits, evidence of hearths and kilns in the burned soil, even of burials from the time before the Gods left us.”
                “You believe in the Gods?” said Cgnita quickly, before she could speak again. “I had thought many archaeologist didn’t believe—“
                “Oh, I meant from the time before the establishment of the church,” said Eilen, laughing affectedly. “Before 1 C.U., you know, there is very little evidence of religious sites anywhere in Frewyn—excepting the Wyn na Dail and the Carin in Karnwyl—but even that is ambiguous. We can make conjectures and form theories, but no one really knows what that site was originally for.”
I know someone who does, Cgnita thought to himself, though I know he will give me a rude answer if I should ask. And this is going well. I know know if I want him intruding just now. He waited, but there was nothing beyond the sounds of Eilen’s rambling dissertation.
“It is said that First King Allun’s father was elected leader there, and we know that First King Allun visited many times—the legends say that is where the Gods first spoke to him after he went there to bury his father-- there are accounts of other kings and queens making pilgrimages and writing down their journeys, though none of their accounts are as meticulous as Allun’s, with all the minutiae of dates and conversations-- but as for prehistory, well,” with a sigh, “I’m afraid we’ll never know fully what happened. It is just the same with the great hill forts around the kingdom. We can only guess that they were all from different clans, each of them belonging to a God they worshiped, but we only know that because of the figures they made in their territories. So few records survive from before King Allun, and what we have are mostly his accounts from the time of his rule. All the rest are his father’s writings about the segregation of the clans in ancient times, but there is nothing from the time of the great rift. If only we had some writing to prove that those stones once belonged to Reis’ lost clan,” gesturing to the stone circle in the distance. “There are coins with Reis’ image on them which were found at the site, and the same coins were found in Marridon, aol of which date back to around the time of the great rift, but—“ She glanced at the cleric, looked down, and paled. “I am sorry,” said she, in rather an embarrassed tone. “I do tend to go on when talking about my work. I do forget to ask if you are interested. I should not wish to give the gapes, as they say, if you would rather talk of something else.”
She hemmed and coiled her forelock behind her ear, and Cgnita, feeling his colour rising, feared he might betray his happiness in his shameful smiles.
“I cannot tell you how pleasant it is, Miss Eilen,” said the cleric, “to hear something other than ‘Are you sure I am not dying, can you examine me again?’”
Tinkling laughter ebbed out from pursed lips, and Cgnita was rather impressed with himself for having revived her spirits.
“Well! At least I am not boring you or offending you with my research.”
“Offending?” Cgnita exclaimed. “My dear madam, how could the study of history be offensive?”
“I’m sure, being a member of the church, that you are well aware of how disliked the Archaeological Society is.”
“In truth, I have never heard of a dislike until this moment, but that is probably due to my not living very much in the world. I am quite shut away in my infirmary, and am hardly let out during the day. There is always someone who needs something, and while I am very glad to offer my services to the community, I do not often get out. I quite enjoy reading all the reports that come from the society. I had always thought that they were well respected in the scientific community.”
“Scientific community, certainly, but,” and there was a blush as she said it, “we are rather maligned amongst the religious leaders in Karnwyl.”
“Oh—“ Cgnita scoffed. “Everything under the sun that is not marriage and having children is malgined by the church in Karnwyl. You need have little worry of them. They are far too serious. They believe the Gods visit them—“ He stopped, realizing he was repeating Aoidhe’s own protestations. “But that is all nonsense anyway. Everyone knows that the Gods are here in Kileen and have no time to visit Karnwyl besides.”
Eilen held her sides and laughed. Cgnita only simpered and wished he was being disingenuous.
                “I should not laugh too much,” said Eilen, twinkling away a tear, “even though you did make a joke. If you are religious, I should not wish to offend—“ She paused to consider and confer with herself. “…But you did make that joke just now, so laughing at it might be all right. But if you are religious—“ and then, turning back toward him, “You are not religious, are you?”
“Me?” said Cgnita, surprised. “I don’t think I could ever be called so. I am certainly not observant, if that is what you mean. I never attend services, I have no sewynpaudir or shrine of any sort, even though my infirmary is attached to a church. It is the oddest thing, I suppose. I had never thought myself to be religious in any respect. I am a scientist, but I find science and the study of the natural world to be a sort of belief in itself. It is not blasphemy to marvel in the wonders of the world. Rather the reverse, I should think. Indeed, there are many scientists who do believe in the Gods without being religious. Our religion does not hinder our scientific advancement, as it might do in Gallei, and though we will not go so far as Marridon to use contraptions that might assist—and mainly hurt—us and deny Gods altogether—“ He was rambling, he knew, and Eilen’s enthralled looks made him uneasy. “In short, I do believe in the Gods, but I do not believe in them to the capacity as someone in Karnwyl might do. I have prayed to them before--” here was a conscious glance wither Aoidhe had be used to preside, “—but I would not say I worship them to any great extent. I know they are there, but they do not seem to require my attention or my supplication.”
“I think it very interesting to hear you say so,” Eilen exclaimed. “I would have thought that as one of the Blessed, you would be more prone to worship.”
Cgnita canted his head and folded his arms across his chest. “Somehow, and I do not know how this is, I do not know any clerics who are religious. All my colleagues in Diras and at the Haven are marvelously secular and disinterested. In fact, I cannot recall anyone I studied with at the Haven as being a militant religionist, but Frewyn is not a nation in general to be mad on fideism, though when compared with Marridon we might be called so. But I suppose it is only natural that one would expect clerics to believe in the divine, since we do the Gods work. We do not live in a theonomy, however, and may govern ourselves how we like. We have no repercussion for want of observance, unlike Gallei, where anyone who determines not to believe in Gallia and Uscen are flogged by their institution. Indeed, I suppose I must believe to some extent because I have been given the ability to heal. How can it be explained? As some evolutionary trait? I grant you, there could be some biological reason for it, but where did it come from if not Ogham? Is not one of the archaeological theories that Ogham and all the Gods indeed were really just persons of high status within the original clans?”
“Yes!” Eilen cried, in an ecstasy, “Have you been reading Aston’s Theories on Early Frewyns, and his ideas on anthropotheism?”
Cgnita held his hands together behind his back and dug his foot in the ground. “I have taken it from the Kileen library a few times,” said he abashedly. There was a pause, and when Cgnita remembered that Aoidhe was not present  to encourage him to speak, he said, “Miss Eilen, you effect shyness, but I know you are very knowledgeable on the subject. Won’t you tell me about your reading of Aston’s work as we go?” motioning toward the stones. “I should very much like to hear your interpretation of his continental rift theory.”
He need not say anything more to garner a lecture from her; he need only look interested and expectant, and she would fill up the blanks in conversation with archaeological and historical information. They walked down the northern side of the hill and toward the stones, Cgnita trinkling all her tender musings, and Eilen talking of proto-Frewyns, of the supposed great fissure which split the continents from their original and singular formation, and the more she spoke of coin hoards, of rock formations in the south of Marridon, of alluvium and buried loam, the more in danger the cleric was of being dreadfully attached to her. Her natural propensity to lecture, her enthusiasm over the mundane, her interpretations of stone and peat made their way to a most avid heart; her doctiloquence was delightful, and therefore irresistible, and as they came to the causeway around the stone circle, Cgnita believed he was half in love with her already.